June 20, 2018
Mayor Kenneth Weise, City of Avondale
June 20, 2018, Meeting Summary
It has been my honor to serve as Chair of the Transportation Policy Committee (TPC) over the past year. Two items at our June meeting brought home the importance of the collaborative work of this committee, and the exciting possibilities for the future of transportation in the region.
We heard some very good news about safety on Valley freeways. Results of a three-year pilot program, jointly funded by the Maricopa Association of Governments (MAG) and the Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT), found that the time it takes to clear freeway crashes has been reduced by more than an hour, despite an increase in the number of crashes each year. The program placed Department of Public Safety (DPS) troopers inside the ADOT Traffic Operations Center (TOC), allowing them to monitor traffic flow and immediately direct units and resources in the field in the event of a crash. This faster response lowers the number of secondary crashes and the time drivers spend stuck in traffic.
This program has worked so well that ADOT is now funding the placement of DPS officers at the TOC, and expanding service coverage to the entire state on a 24/7 basis. It’s a great example of how using the resources we have more efficiently can make a huge difference.
Another example where that rings true is the potential of a regional commuter rail system. An updated study reveals that commuter rail could carry around 21,000 passengers a day using existing rail networks, providing better access to downtown Phoenix and Sky Harbor Airport from the West and East Valleys. This option could add a new dimension to our transportation portfolio of the future.
The future of the TPC is in good hands with incoming Chair Jenn Daniels, Mayor of Gilbert. I thank you again for allowing me to lead this group, and thank you to all of the member agencies and staff who work together to make a difference in the lives of the people of this region.
Mayor Kenneth Weise
The TPC recommended approval of a proposal to provide new freeway signs recognizing the renaming of Bethany Home Road, between 91st and 99th Avenues, to Cardinals Way. The City of Glendale is changing the roadway name to recognize the positive economic impact that the NFL Arizona Cardinals and the University of Phoenix stadium has had upon the region. Renaming the street enhances tourism and economic development as visitors come to the region to attend Cardinals games and other special events held at the stadium, which has already hosted two Super Bowls, the NCAA Men’s Final Four, and another Super Bowl in 2023.
ADOT is recommending a budget of approximately $70,000 to update 14 existing signs along Loop 101/Agua Fria freeway. Glendale is responsible for replacing the street signs along the arterial street to reflect the name change and will do so using city funds and staff. There are currently no other property owners with developments along this stretch of Bethany Home Road, so there will not be any impact to existing residents and businesses.
TPC recommended approval of using FY 2019 maintenance expenditures to cover the costs for new signs along Loop 101.
Members of the TPC recommended approval of the Draft FY 2019 Arterial Life Cycle Program (ALCP), the financial management tool that implements arterial street projects in the Regional Transportation Plan (RTP). The program is updated annually with new revenue forecasts, information provided by lead agencies, and changes to project schedules.
Funding in the ALCP comes from two sources: the half-cent sales tax, also known as the Regional Area Road Fund (RARF), and federal transportation revenues. The last RARF forecast, released by ADOT in September of 2017, indicated a 1.6 percent decrease in program revenues over the previous year’s forecast. Alternately, the projection of federal revenue into the program increased by 1.9 percent over last year’s forecast.
Taking into account both the RARF and federal transportation revenue forecasts, there was a slight increase in the amount of projected revenues into the program. The program surplus in the draft FY 2019 ALCP totals $45.8 million. Staff noted that no rebalancing of the program is needed this year.
TPC members heard final results of a successful pilot program aimed at reducing the time it takes to clear freeway crashes, with the goal of lessening congestion and potentially saving lives. The three-year project placed DPS officers in ADOT’s Traffic Operations Center (TOC), where a network of more than 200 cameras monitor traffic flow. DPS officers are in direct communication with troopers in the field to quickly determine the response and resources necessary to clear each crash as soon as possible. The pilot program was approved by the MAG Regional Council in August 2014, and was funded jointly by MAG and ADOT.
Data through September 2017 show that despite continuing increases in the number of crashes, the average time to clear freeway crashes was reduced each year. In the first year of the program clearance time was reduced by nearly an hour, and by the last year in 2017, that clearance grew to one hour and 12 minutes. That reduction shortens the potential for freeway closures and delays, helps avoid secondary crashes, and improves safety. The program not only saves time, but money. MAG estimates the region has saved $336 million in man-hours due to reduced traffic delays over the three years of the program.
Due to the success of this pilot project, ADOT has permanently funded placing DPS officers at the TOC, and expanded coverage to include the entire state on a 24/7 basis. Staff noted this is one of the best proven investments by MAG and ADOT for improving freeway traffic operations.
TPC members heard an update of the Regional Commuter Rail System Study, first done in 2010. The update provided a fresh look at the planned commuter rail system, projected ridership, cost estimates, benefits to the region, and other related data.
The proposed 110 mile system is based on four existing freight rail corridors that would connect 18 community centers/urban cores and two airports. It would give a higher speed, longer distance option for commuters to a variety of housing opportunities, jobs, and entertainment and cultural centers.
The study estimates weekday ridership at about 21,000, placing the Maricopa region in the top 10 of commuter rail systems in the country. Capital costs per mile would run about $24 million, less than half the cost of a light rail system. Basing a fare assumption of $3 dollars one-way, the estimated fare recovery is about 36-40 percent.
Discussion points included a need for strategies to address what’s known as “first mile, last mile,” which refers to the gap between public transit and home or work destination. Options such as autonomous vehicles and ride-sharing could be used with a mobile app, taking the commuter from their location to the best fixed-route transportation stop that meets their needs. Other possibilities are putting some segments of rail infrastructure underground, creating more space and increasing the safety factor with fewer railroad crossings, and calculating the positive impact of commuter rail on freeways and economic development.
Next steps for implementation include updating ridership forecasts, coordinating with the railroads, working out legal issues, and identifying funding. Rail operations would likely begin 3-5 years after funding commitments.
MAG staff introduced two new initiatives resulting from lessons learned from the 2018 legislative session and opportunities going forward in 2019. To recap, two bills that would have laid the groundwork for the extension of transportation funding, House Bill (HB) 2162 and Senate Bill (SB) 1147, did not successfully make it through the State Legislature. The bills would have allowed MAG to go to the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors for approval of a ballot initiative to renew the half-cent sales tax for transportation (extending Proposition 400, which expires in 2025).
In response to these challenges, the first initiative is to develop policy principles for the MAG agency. Staff described these as broad and flexible principles on issues of transportation, air quality, 9-1-1 emergency services, human services, and other MAG program areas. The policy principles are intended to provide a level of awareness for MAG member agencies, the public, and other stakeholders on how MAG positions itself in relation to policy and legislative matters. MAG staff will have conversations with member agencies in the coming months to help inform the development of the policy principles. With that feedback and input from MAG’s policy committees, the goal is to have the draft policy principles ready for consideration by the MAG Regional Council in November 2018.
The second item will focus on a timeline to pursue legislation that will allow the MAG region to continue the half-cent sales tax for transportation. Currently, this is imagined as proposed legislation with the same intent as HB 2162 and SB 1147. MAG plans to use the coming months to work with MAG member agencies; spend time coalition building with affected stakeholders; meet with relevant state offices; and to facilitate related activities. MAG also is working to determine where the Pima Association of Governments and the rural counties stand on proposed legislation for the 2019 session. Also, a consultant will be brought on board to conduct values mapping, which is intended to inform the conversation on the development of the next Regional Transportation Plan. In the months of September and October, the plan is to discuss this legislative strategy with the Transportation Policy Committee, Regional Council, Management Committee, and Economic Development Committee, with consideration for action by the MAG Regional Council in November.
Note: The following committees will not meet in July.
Maricopa Association of Governemnts
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Regional Council Activity Report: a summary of the most recent Regional Council meeting
EDC E-Update: an update on the activities of the MAG Economic Development Committee
Let's Keep Moving!: a monthly newsletter providing information about the Transportation Policy Committee.